Hacking-gate Wagons Start to Circle Around James Murdoch

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In last month’s installment of the hacking drama gripping the U.K., a 2007 letter from Clive Goodman, a former employee fired for hacking, emerged with accusations that practice was widespread. At the same time, a prominent London media law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, hired to handle Goodman’s firing dismissed James Murdoch’s assertions that they’d certified to him the practice had been limited to just Goodman. The latter served time in prison for his hacking of the royal family’s voicemail messages.

On Tuesday, two more former employees of News of the World, told members of Parliament that they, too, had told Murdoch that the practice had extended beyond just the Goodman case. Former News legal manager Tom Crone and former editor Colin Myler testified about another hacking case. In 2007, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, the main union for soccer players in the U.K., sued the paper for invading his privacy for hacking his voicemail. He was eventually awarded £425,000. His lawyers gave the court documents relating to the settlement and in them was an email marked “for Neville,” which might suggest that NotW’s chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck knew about the hacking of Taylor’s phone. (Another NotW hacker, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, went to jail in 2007 alongside Goodman for their indiscretions.) Both Myler and Crone asserted that they briefed Murdoch on the memo. Crone to the committee:

It was clear evidence that phone-hacking was taking place beyond Clive Goodman. It was the reason that we had to settle the case. And in order to settle the case we had to explain the case to Mr. Murdoch and get his authority to settle. So certainly it would certainly have been discussed. I cannot remember the detail of the conversation. And there isn’t a note of it. The conversation lasted for quite a short period, I would think probably less than 15 minutes or about 15 minutes. It was discussed. But exactly what was said I cannot recall.

James Murdoch and his father Rupert, founder of News Corp, have testified in previous hearings that they had not been told of the “for Neville” e-mail. On Tuesday, James Murdoch reiterated that he stood by his testimony. But, Crone and Myler’s statements leave little doubt that Murdoch will be recalled to testify again. And virtually every cable news report on the issue mentioned the fact that Murdoch remains chairman of the BSkyB satellite company — a post they say could be imperriled if he’s found guilty of perjury or worse. So, Britain will stay tuned for the next chapter of the enthralling drama, ironically driving paper sales and television coverage as the hacks were intended to do.